Bleats

This Is What Australia's NBN Should Have Been Like

Ah, what could've been.

It’s the end of a long week, work has been stressful, your dog is mad at you for some reason, and the only thing you want to do is watch a heap of Netflix.

But alas, rather than the crystal clear quality stream you expected for your third rewatch of Beyoncé’s Homecoming, you’re going to have to put up with choppy playback and subpar quality where you can literally count the number of pixels on the screen.

Chances are that you’re far from the first person in Australia to experience this sort of thing with Netflix and the problem can be pinpointed to one big issue that the entire country has been grappling with for the last decade: our super-slow internet and the ongoing saga that is the NBN.

The sad thing is this black box is probably faster than what we currently have in Australia.

The NBN was first announced back in 2007 by then-PM Kevin Rudd and was to replace Australia’s slow and creaky internet with a high-speed broadband network that would’ve put our country in the upper echelons of speedy interweb access.

Of course, we’ve all seen how the NBN has ultimately unfolded in the 12 years since the letters “N”, “B”, and “N” left Rudd’s lips. Between leadership spills on both sides of the aisle, missed deadlines, billions of dollars, and more political wrangling than Game of Thrones, the original plan for the NBN gradually went from something amazing (on paper) to the fustercluck that some of us have now.

So without further ado, here’s a timeline of what went down with the NBN, starting with its announcement back in 2007.

Among many, many other problems.

2007

Labor proposed their idea for the NBN, which would use “Fibre to the Node” (FTTN) technology to deliver super fast internet to 98% of Australia with a minimum speed of 12mbps at a cost of about $15 billion within five years.

In response, then-PM John Howard unveiled his own $2 billion broadband plan that will see built up areas get speeds up to 50mbps and 12mbps in rural areas.

Labor ended up winning the 2007 federal election and their initial NBN plan is underway.

2008

The first request for proposal is submitted but the Global Financial Crisis hits like a freight train and it gets terminated in 2009.

2009

After the first proposal gets scuttled, the Rudd government announces a new plan to construct a new national network using a combination of “fibre to the premises (FTTP)”, fixed wireless and satellite tech.

In layman’s terms, this new plan would’ve bypassed Australia’s old copper FTTN network and installed a new FTTP fibre-optic network that would deliver better speeds (up to 100mbps), be good for upgrades in the long-term, and fix any outstanding problems the old network had.

This new NBN plan was planned to reach 93% of Australia by June 2021 at a whopping cost of between $37-43 billion and NBN Co was set up to design, build, and handle the while thing.

In short, it was super ambitious and super expensive but Australia probably would’ve ended up with some crazy good internet had it panned out.

2010

Work begins with the first customers in Tasmania connected in July as part of a trial rollout. However, trouble is afoot for Labor’s NBN plan as Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull vowed to throw a wrench into the works, arguing that it’s too expensive and no one needs internet faster than 12mbps anyway. To put that into perspective, you won’t be able to stream Netflix properly at that speed.

This is going to become a recurring narrative that’ll come back to bite everyone on the ass.

2011 

Work is continuing with the signing of agreements with Telstra and Optus to get onboard with the NBN.

The National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011 was passed and it basically revolved around rules regarding how companies have to operate, transparency regarding information, and competition concerns.

2012

Work is still going.

Malcolm really doubles down on his “Labor’s NBN is rubbish” schtick through the use of the following confusing analogy, “Don’t buy yourself a Camry, a Falcon – buy yourself a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley.”

For reasons only known to him, ol’ Malc later backtracks a little bit on his comments and says the Coalition will not tear down Labor’s NBN or anything sinister like that.

Yep, uh huh, okay

2013

Hoo boy, it gets nasty during this period.

After the Coalition takes power following the 2013 federal election, Malcolm (who was Minister for Communications) immediately goes to work on dismantling Labor’s original NBN plan.

First he scuttled the original FTTP installation plan in favour of reusing a combination of Australia’s old FTTN network, fibre to the curb (FTTC) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) in an approach called “Multi-Technology Mix” (MTM).

In other words, the Coalition said poo-poo on Labor’s plan to run fibre-optic cables to every house in favour of using Australia’s old copper network (with a small dash of fibre-optic cables) since it’ll be cheaper.

This also meant that the initial promised internet speed of 100mbps was downgraded to about 25mbps but ol’ Malc promised it will all get delivered sooner than Labor’s plan, a promise he walked back on just months later.

2014

The Coalition’s own ideas for the NBN is official as it announces the cost of its MTM plan, which will cost “only” $29.5 billion and be completed by 2019.

2015

Work is still going.

Ex-NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley spills the tea in a scathing critique of the Coalition’s MTM NBN plan, which at this point will now cost anywhere between $40 to $56 billion, and provided the receipts to back up his claims.

Okay, so the Coalition’s NBN plan is slower and more expensive than Labor’s NBN plan, but surely Australians will get it sooner? Well, not quite.

2016

Work is still going.

Ol’ Malc becomes Prime Minister and new Minister of Communications Mitch Fifield takes over whatever is happening for on the NBN.

Speaking of NBN, some progress is being made on that front with the launch of two NBN satellites to provide internet to regional areas.

At this point, only around 2.9 million premises are able to connect to the NBN, a far cry from the 90-something percent of Australia promised from both Labor and the Coalition.

2017

Work is still going.

A report by the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN is absolutely scathing and recommends a drastic refocus of the project.

Following an investigation from the ACCC into NBN speeds offered by Telstra, the telecoms giant offers compensation to 42,000 customers after delivering slower internet speeds than what it promoted.

In the midst of all the NBN criticism, ol’ Malc decides to pin the blame on Labor and conveniently all the things he did in 2013. Kevin Rudd responds by eloquently telling Malc that he was the one who “changed horse in mid-stream.

2018-2019

Work is still going.

Malc gets flak for having The Lodge connected to highish-speed FTTC NBN while his neighbours get the old FTTN stuff.

Costs continue to balloon, with the price tag placed at around $51 billion in 2018.

The new MTM rollout deadline is now pushed to 2020 but even that seems like a mirage as only 10 million premises are able to connect to the NBN as of Q1 of 2019.

There’s almost no doubt the NBN will be a big talking point for the 2019 federal election.

Progress is progress!

Conclusion

Had the NBN happened under Labor’s original plan, it would’ve been wildly expensive and likely gone over-budget, and taken far longer than its initial 2021 completion date. But if it all worked – and it’s a big if – Australia would had up-to-date communications infrastructure and enough internet speed to give South Korea a run for its money.

Under the Coalition’s rejigged plan, what we got is a wildly expensive NBN that has gone over-budget (and is currently costing more than Labor’s plan) and taken longer than its initial 2019 completion date. On top of that, Australia’s communications infrastructure remains old and there will almost certainly problems down the line in the future and our internet speed currently ranks around 62nd in the world. We’re behind Kazakhstan but at least we’re ahead of Madagascar.

An expensive thing that works is still far better than an expensive thing that doesn’t and it seems like Australia has slotted into the latter category due to all the political shenanigans that have unfolded over the last decade.

However, the real losers here are the Australian people, many of whom are still waiting for their NBN to come. On a side note, I finally got NBN on April 2019 after nearly 10 years of waiting. My editor is still waiting for hers, sadly.

Twitter Refuses To Ban White Supremacists Because It'll Also Mean Banning Politicians

Banning ISIS content? No problem. Banning white supremacy stuff? Yeah, nah.

With all the deserved flak that social media giants have been copping recently in regards to moderating questionable content, some companies have started taking baby steps to correct the problem. Facebook has finally started banning anti-vax content while Twitter has largely eradicated ISIS propaganda off its platform.

However, this has led to a big question: if Twitter can get rid of ISIS content, why can’t it do the same for white supremacist stuff?

Despite Twitter’s policies against “abuse and hateful conduct”, racist and offensive idiots like Donald Trump and former KKK leader David Duke are still hanging around, prompting many to bombard Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey with replies of “Jack, ban the Nazis” whenever he tweets anything.

Well folks, best buckle up because the explanation will probably irritate you.

According to Motherboard, a Twitter executive spilled the tea and says that while algorithms are good for cleaning up all the rubbish that gets posted on Twitter, too much aggression can mean innocent accounts will get swept up in the cleanse. For ISIS stuff, that’s a small trade-off for Twitter since society is definitely all for being a bother to a few people if it meant getting rid of beheading videos and propaganda.

But for white supremacy, it’s a dicier prospect. Using that same algorithm approach means all the content from conservative Republican politicians in America could get swept up and Twitter are not particularly keen on getting on the bad side of those pollies since that’s like opening up Pandora’s Box of racist tweet replies.

When pressed on why this is, the Twitter executive handwaved it off by saying that while all of society are cool with the trade-off of banning a few innocent people if it meant no more ISIS content, not everyone will be cool with Republican politicians getting banned if it mean no more white supremacy content.

So in short, Twitter won’t ban white supremacy content because it might ban some offensive Republican politicians and the company don’t want to deal with the fallout, the deluge of angry tweets from the likes of Trump and his supporters, and the threat of political retaliation because some pollies no longer get to tweet all the offensive stuff they want.

Extrapolating a little bit, Twitter’s lack of action on white supremacy rubbish means that Australia will also be affected by the company’s lack of action.

Since our country sadly also has its share of white supremacists and horrible people in political positions of power (looking at you, Fraser Anning), it means they’re also going to be free to tweet out all the awful stuff they want and chances are they’ll get away with it.

At the moment, Twitter’s current method of moderating white supremacy rubbish is through human moderators carefully sifting through every unsavoury tweet. If history has taught us anything, getting humans to police content on a social media platform is a surefire way to get people to bang in stairwells to deal with the inevitable trauma so this definitely won’t end well for anyone.

Listen, Twitter, just because getting rid of offensive white supremacy content is a hard problem doesn’t mean you get a pass, racist Republican politician complaints be damned. If Facebook can do it, then surely you can too. The world will be better off without that sort of stuff in it and you can spare your poor employees from dealing with their tweet-induced PTSD by getting freaky with each other in office stairwells during their lunch breaks.

Politicians, Just Stop Using Pop-Culture In Your Ads And Agendas, You’re Ruining It For Us

It's especially bad when the politicians (and their social media managers) clearly have no clue what they're referencing.

Let’s face it, we all slip in pop-culture references into a conversation whenever possible. It provides a common talking point with other people, it’s a good icebreaker with strangers, and it’s just fun seeing everyone join in on the banter whenever a Game of Thrones quote or an Ariana Grande lyric is dropped.

However, we’ve hit a crucial juncture in this whole pop-culture referencing thing because politicians are starting to do it and hoo boy has it become a big problem, especially in the last few weeks.

Look, we get that you’re trying to give off the impression that you’re “hip” and “cool” because you’re all over what the youngins are into these days, but the result is just sad and to put it frankly, politicians, you’re ruining everything for us. Let’s just look at some egregious examples that have come up recently, starting with the Liberal party’s latest effort.

In case you haven’t heard, the last season of Game of Thrones is currently airing and the Liberals decided to roast Labor and Bill Shorten while fluffing themselves up by using a reference to the hit show. Unfortunately, their social media team clearly hasn’t watched the show at all because they decided to go with the Lannister house words, “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

Never mind that the ad was just bad, but the Liberals clearly didn’t realise that they’re essentially calling themselves the baddies while also suggesting that the whole party is really into incest. That would explain a lot, actually.

It’s not just the Liberal party who deserves a roasting for using pop-culture references incorrectly or in a tasteless manner.

When it was announced that Christopher Pyne would be retiring from politics, the WA division of Labor decided to commemorate this by releasing a parody music video of Pyne’s head superimposed over a clip of Freddie Mercury singing “Another One Bites The Dust.” Just to really rub it in, they also superimposed Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton’s head over the other Queen members.

Someone in the Labor party clearly got some inspiration after watching Bohemian Rhapsody but this is enough to make even the most devoted Queen fan renounce the band. And that’s not even mentioning that the video didn’t go down well with a heap of people since the casually homophobic clip was posted on the same day as Sydney’s Mardi Gras, forcing WA Labor to sheepishly delete it from their social media. Except for their FB page, which we assume someone on the team forgot to do.

Morrison is no innocent party in this irritating exploitation of pop-culture references either. There was his awful “Back In Black” budget campaign ad, which was as cringey as it was unoriginal since it directly ripped off former New Zealand PM John  Key’s ad from about five years ago.

And of course, there was Morrison dropping that awful Borat impression on the floor of parliament in an attempt to roast Labor’s carbon credit trading scheme. Never mind Morrison’s piss-poor effort at channelling Borat, but dropping an outdated Borat reference in 2019 is like going into an Apple store and asking where the gramophone section is – you’re going to get weird looks from everyone.

And of course, how can we forget Donald Trump‘s recent dabbles with Game of Thrones references?

Despite the absolute fustercluck that’s erupted over the last couple of weeks after the dropping of several investigative bombshells into basically every illegal thing he’s done, Combover Caligula thinks he still has the upper hand and decided to take an undeserved victory lap by tweeting out a Game of Thrones inspired “Game Over” photo.

Needless to say that this copped a crapload of ridicule, which isn’t new for Trump these days. HBO wasn’t too happy about this either and sent out a sternly-worded tweet telling Trump to stop referencing GoT in his tweets.

You’re better off taking away Trump’s sippy cup and sending him to the time out corner if you want him to stop tweeting Thrones stuff, HBO.

All those aforementioned examples of pop-culture referencing from politicians happened all within the last month alone, which doesn’t bode well for the months to come when the federal election and the end of Game of Thrones arrives.

So let’s nip this in the bud before it becomes more of a problem than it already is. Politicians, please stop using pop-culture references in your ads, agendas, and basically everything you do. You are all horribly bad at that sort of thing, it’s incredibly annoying, and you’re ruining everything for us. We already have to put up with you all every day so please leave the one good thing we have to look forward to at the end of each day alone.

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